Santa Cruz Caprese Salad

This is my version of the infamous Caprese Salad. The traditional recipe calls for tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella, but I find that tomatoes are so sweet these days, and the mozzarella is equally sweet and similar in texture that they do not make a perfect foil for each other. Some recipes call for a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar, and then it becomes cloying. In this recipe, I substitute fresh local goat cheese (chevre style) for the mozzarella and add some slices of crisp red onion to act as a texture and flavor counterpart to the sweet tomatoes, and the goat cheese adds both tart bite and creaminess to the salad. Simple perfection. Served as a first course, you may be surprised how many nice salads you can get from 3 or 4 large heirloom tomatoes and a basket of assorted cherry tomatoes.

INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs. assorted tomatoes, sliced thin (save end cuts to chop)   
1 lb. assorted cherry tomatoes, cut   
1/2 red onion, sliced very thin   
4 oz. crumbled local goat cheese (your choice!)   
2-4 tablespoons quality extra virgin olive oil   
1-2 tablespoons quality balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced   
salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:

Keep tomatoes at room temperature unless they have already been refrigerated. Place the sliced red onion in ice water for 2 minutes, then remove and pat dry (skip this step if using spring onions – just give the slices a quick rinse under the faucet.)

Slice the large tomatoes about 1/8 inch thick and keep them piled on top of each other for each different tomato. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half under your palm with a serrated bread knife. Place the sliced tomatoes around the plate spreading the different types of tomato around the plate like your own mosaic and season lightly with salt and pepper. Toss the cherry tomatoes around plate. Sprinkle red onion around and the drizzle all with oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with goat cheese and then the basil. Serve.

YIELD: 8 servings

VARIATION:
You could, of course, make this salad the traditional way with fresh mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella, but I love the tartness and piquancy of the chevre type goat cheese.

SOURCE:  Chef Jamie Smith

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